WHEREAS the Province of Alberta has the authority and mandate to eliminate school and playground zones on provincial highways; AND WHEREAS the Province has established new classifications as school areas and playground areas; AND WHEREAS the Province does not have to consult the local municipality before exercising their right to reclassify school and playground zones to school and playground areas; AND WHEREAS the Traffic Safety Act has been changed so that the maximum speed in school zones is 30 km/h; AND WHEREAS school and playground areas will see speeds maintained at posted highway speeds; AND WHEREAS all rural schools adjacent to secondary highways and arterial roads will become school areas; AND WHEREAS rural children may be put at a greater risk due to faster moving vehicles;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties request the provincial government to amend the Traffic Safety Act and the Guidelines for School and Playground Zones and Areas so as to provide for speed reductions in school and playground areas where circumstances are appropriate.
This issue came to the Countys attention as administration started to look into the replacement of some school signs. Council was then asked which sign package should be purchased. The Province has adopted “Guidelines for School and Playground Zones and Areas”. In this document it sets out ranking criteria for determining if the municipality should create a school zone or school area. In the guidelines scoring system, different categories are given different weight. Of major concern is the road classification criteria. If your school is on an arterial road or provincial highway it cannot score enough points to be a school zone. The major difference between school zones and school areas has to do with speed limits. On a provincial highway, the municipality has no authority regarding the speed limit and the speed limit will be the posted speed of the road. On a municipal arterial road, the municipality may set a speed limit but it must be on a 24-hour window and not for school hours only. With the new “Guidelines for School and Playground Zones and Areas” and recently amended Traffic Safety Act, the Province has taken the flexibility away from municipalities. Rural municipalities that have greater visibility and distance from arterial roads and highways no longer have the ability to reduce the speed to 40 km/h. It is 30 km/h or by bylaw down to a minimum of 20 km/h. Many urban school and playground zones are in residential areas with parked cars on both sides of the road. The Province has taken away the municipalities ability to address their communities unique attributes. Many rural areas have facilities such as stores and arenas across the highway from the school. Our children will no longer be protected by a decreased speed limit as they cross the highway.
The AAMDC has no resolutions currently in effect with respect to this issue.
While the basic speed limit for a school or playground zone is 30 kilometres per hour, there are currently provisions within the Act that allow the road authority to prescribe a lower maximum speed limit down to a base of 20 kilometres per hour.